Sometimes a child might lose a tooth before their adult teeth are prepared to come in. Even though baby teeth are naturally supposed to fall out, a situation like this can lead to more issues if not maintained properly. Orthodontists utilize devices known as space maintainers to guarantee that a child's adult teeth will have room to grow properly. It's a good idea to schedule a visit with your child's orthodontist or pediatric dentist if they've lost a tooth prematurely to see if they'll require a space maintainer.
What is a Space Maintainer?
Dental space maintainers are orthodontic devices utilized for retaining enough space for a permanent adult tooth to come in after a baby tooth is prematurely lost. Although it might not seem like anything to worry about at first, not keeping on top of the situation can potentially lead to costly problems in the future. There are several reasons that can cause premature loss of baby teeth such as trauma, congenital defects, decay, or accidents. Depending on the situation of your child's tooth loss, your orthodontist or pediatric dentist may suggest a different variety of space maintainers.
Different Types of Space Maintainers
There are two typical categories of pediatric dental space maintainers:
Fixed Dental Maintainers
A fixed space maintainer will generally be a semi-permanent tooth fixture that allows for enough open space for an adult tooth to come in. After the permanent tooth has emerged and it grows into place, the maintainer will be removed. The types of fixed space maintainers are:
- Crown-and-Loop devices that go over one tooth and push with a steel wire loop
- Distal Shoe devices only utilized for permanent first molars that have yet to grow in
- Lingual devices are typically used to address many gaps caused by congenital defects
- Unilateral devices where a steel wire is wrapped around the teeth on either side of the gap
Removable Dental Maintainers
A removable space maintainer is preferable if your child's adult tooth is nearly ready to grow in. These pediatric dental devices can be customized based around your child's specific needs. Typically, removable space maintainers are made of acrylic material, and they can even be fitted with a fake tooth. These maintainers make it easier for your child to maintain a good oral hygiene regimen, but they are not always as effective at saving enough space as fixed space maintainers.
Are Space Maintainers Really Needed?
An often-overlooked function of a baby tooth is that it's meant to reserve space for the adult tooth to grow in. If a baby tooth falls out or is otherwise removed prematurely, the vacant space may result in the adult teeth growing in crooked. Although the body is typically good at maintaining enough space in the mouth, every case is different. Since space maintainers will be able to save your child needless dental work in the future, this is where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure should your little one need it.
Your pediatric dentist or orthodontist will be able to evaluate your child in order to determine which type of maintainer is proper for their situation. To schedule an appointment to learn more about protecting your child's future oral health, reach out to the knowledgeable staff at Fruge Orthodontics today!